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Two Countries, Two Cuisines, Too Delicious

The Food of Taiwan and Malaysia

Location: Taiwan and Malaysia

Taking a cooking class and going on a food tour in every country I visit is a goal I have. And I accomplish it often, but not always. But when I can I always enjoy it and over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing two countries, two cuisines, too delicious – the food of Taiwan and Malaysia.

Taiwan

We spent six days in Taipei Taiwan. We weren’t really tuned in to the Taiwanese cuisine, half expecting it to be just like China. But unlike China, Taiwan has been strongly influenced from Japan (with historical influence also from Portugal and Holland) and it’s noticeable in the cuisine. The Chinese influence comes primarily from Eastern China (Fujian). And certainly the fact that Taiwan is an island, the cuisine has a much stronger focus on seafood than much of China.

Scallion pancake on Food Tour in Taiwan
Scallion Pancake is one of our favorite foods we discovered in Taipei Taiwan

GoTuCook

A search online led me to Chef Calvin at GoTuCook. Thorough out our world travels I’ve taken cooking classes large and small, in cooking schools and home kitchens, from world famous chefs and humble housewives. And usually my favorite experiences are the ones where I have one-on-one time with the instructor in their home. This was my experience with GoTuCook.

Mushroom and chincken soup in Cooking class in Taipei
The beginnings of a delicious shiitake mushroom and chicken soup

We met early in the morning at the Beitou metro station from where we walked to experience the bustling thriving market and the local vendors selling to the local people. I always love this experience with a local who can explain unusual ingredients, answer my questions and enlighten me to this way of life long gone in America.

At The morning market Beitou Taipei
Me at the busy Beitou morning market

Next we headed to Calvin’s apartment, set up perfectfully for cooking classes. I had chosen three dishes I wanted to make ahead of time from a variety of options listed on the GoTuCook website. I chose as a starter Jellyfish Salad and for a soup course a chicken and mushroom soup and for our main course two kinds of pork dumplings.

Displaying all the dumplings made by hand in Taipei cooking class
My pretty dumplings ready for the steamer

I liked both the jellyfish salad (requires an overnight soak of the chewy jellyfish in the fridge before prep) and the fragrant soup with a broth we cooked with chicken feet as well as meaty parts from the blue chicken, but my favorite was the dumplings.

Chef Calvin of GoTuCook
My new friend Chef Calvin of GoTuCook

Making Chinese style steamed dumplings takes some practice. I’ve done similar work in classes before (making empanada in Argentina, pirogi in Poland and dumplings in Vietnam) but it’s still a chore to get your fingers to make the beautiful designs if it’s not a task you do everyday. We made pork with cabbage and spices and pork with corn and different spices. And then we ate!

Of course we had leftovers and I brought dumplings and jellyfish to my husband who was back at the hotel.

I really enjoyed this class and plan to tackle dumplings on my own soon. I recommend GoToCook if you visit Taipei.

Pork bun One sample from Taipei Eats Food Tour
The pork “burger” was one of the best things we had on our Taipei food tour

Taipei Eats

We also took an amazing walking food tour with Taipei Eats where we expanded our Taiwanese cuisine knowledge with Taiwan Pork “burger”, stinky tofu, betel nut, scallion pancake and much more. Taipei Eats was one of the best food tours we have ever done. Our guide was amazing, there was so much food and we learned some interesting facts while meeting local people as well as other travelers from around the world. Such a wonderful experience!

TStinky Tofu at Taipei Eats Food Tour
This is probably the one and only time for me with the Stinky Tofu

Malaysia

What a country Malaysia is for a foodie. This remarkable country is a melting pot of many cultures, and it shows in everything, especially the food. Malay food is often spicy, and nasi (rice) features often. Eating with your hands is common. Pork is rarely featured in this cuisine because most Malay are Muslim.

Prepping the chicken at Indian Cooking Class Kuala Lumpur
Learning Indian cooking in Kuala Lumpur

On the other hand, many Chinese immigrated here in the 1800’s when this land was a British colony and the Chinese food is abundant, and often includes pork. Noodles, chicken and dumplings are also widely enjoyed.

And then there is the Indian food, representing the vast number of Indians living in Malaysia. The use of pungent spices and curries, more noodles as well as lots of vegetables make up this delicious cuisine.

Indigenous Malaysian sweet treat
Ancient Malay cultures enjoyed this rice flour treat

No matter what ethnic background, the people in this country love fried foods and fried chicken, seafood, samosa and much more are popular both as street food and in restaurants.

Off the Eaten Track

The food tour we took in Kuala Lumpur was very unique and one of the best ever. At the end of the evening we had sampled twenty-four (yes you read that correctly) foods of this diverse and delicious country.

Chinese Soup at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
A very local Chinese Soup with veg, chicken and tofu

We signed up with Food Tour Malaysia for their Off the Eaten Track tour and were met by our guide Timothy at a subway stop in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur called Petaling Jaya where we began our gluttonous odyssey at an outdoor Malay neighborhood food court that operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. Here we found just locals enjoying the foods they loved. We had Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaf; ota ota, a smoked mackerel wrapped in palm leaf; a rich goat and potato soup; fried chicken and fried tempeh. I was full before we left this first stop.

Amazing Night Market at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
My husband Arne recruited to work on the “carrot cake” stir fry – one of our favorite things we had on our Kuala Lumpur food tour

Next we headed to probably the best night market I have ever been too, also in the suburb of Petaling Jaya. Here we learned about the popular “carrot cake” (not a cake in the sense we are used to, more of a pressed tofu), we had spring roll, noodles, dumplings and sweet Chinese daun pandan filled with peanuts.

Trying new foods like mackeral in palm leaf at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
Mackerel cooked inside a palm leaf

Next we headed to a very local-only Chinese open air restaurant to sample more noodles cooked over an open fire and a delicious soup with chicken, okra, long beans and potato.

Chinese sweet treat at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
Daun Pandan a sweet Chinese treat

Our final stop was an outdoor Indian restaurant, and we were the only non-Indians there. And darn it I was so full I couldn’t really enjoy the amazing feast of roti, lentil dal, curry, a giant fried pancake with a coconut curry dip, fried chicken and mango smoothie. Roll me home. What a night it was. If you are ever in Kuala Lumpur, do this tour – but pace yourself!

Indian Bananan Roti at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
Banana Roti a sweet Indian treat

The Versatile Housewives

To round off our food frenzy in Kuala Lumpur we spent one morning with Ruth, a cooking instructor who brings the flavors of her native India to visitors in Kuala Lumpur through her business The Versatile Housewives. We learned to make one of India’s most famous dishes, biryani, with a group of local university students in Ruth’s kitchen. Biryani is a rich and flavorful traditional dish, often served at weddings and ceremonies. It can be beef or lamb or chicken. We made a chicken biryani. The flavors of this dish come together by slowly preparing the fresh ingredients of caramelized onions, vegetables and spices like cardamon, cloves and pepper as well as herbs like cilantro and mint. After slowly blending all these flavors with rice and chicken, the biryani is served in a giant bowl and enjoyed communally. Check out Ruth’s website for a great selection of delicious Indian recipes.

Indian Cooking class Kuala Lumpur
The beautiful Biryani we made with our instructor Ruth

No matter where you travel, diving into the culture through food is the most interesting and tastiest way to engage with locals, learn history and culture and broaden your culinary chops. Be brave! Eat the world!

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5 Comments

  • Reply karen

    What an interesting experience. I like the idea of immersing myself into a culture through their food. Kx

    October 18, 2019 at 6:37 am
  • Reply Teja

    I see you’ve done my country correctly – focusing on the food ! Lol

    October 18, 2019 at 6:37 pm
  • Reply Becki

    Awwww, you featured a Roti, these are one of my favourite things. I got so obsessed with these when I was in Thailand. The seem to be everywhere in Asia, but nowhere in the UK! So I just go a bit crazy when I do find them. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t get them back home, all that butter and sugar – so bad, but sooooo good 🙂

    October 19, 2019 at 2:40 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I agree about Roti. My fav was in Sri Lanka!!

      October 19, 2019 at 2:43 am

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